curf - Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships



Research Peer Advisors

Sanjeethan Baksh (COL 2014, Biology)

My current research is aimed at the molecular and cellular characterization of cancer stem cells during both primary and recurrent breast tumor growth. I have conducted both phenotypic and functional studies, and have also done research on inhibition of stem cell pathways to block tumor growth in mice. I am currently characterizing metabolic pathways in these cells, with the aim of using genome editing technology to block metabolism. I have previously conducted research on DNA double strand break repair by the BRCA1/BRCA2 tumor suppressor network, focusing on the role of chromatin in genetic lesion repair. My research has afforded me the opportunity to become familiar with a wide variety of molecular biological, genetic, and biochemical techniques, including mouse work. I’d be happy to discuss any questions you might have about biomedical research or research based classes at Penn.

  • University Scholars Program
  • Department of Biology Student Advisory Board

Daniel Brooks (COL 2015, Biology)

My name is Daniel Brooks and I am currently a rising junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. I have been doing scientific research since my junior year of high school. I have done everything from implanting Schwann cells in rats to creating RNAi constructs in flies. I recently completed an independent research project on migration patterns of Native Mexican linguistic groups sponsored by National Geographic for Dr. Theodore Schurr. I am also working at the NIH this summer analyzing the synthetic effects of combined diseases like cancer and diabetes. As you can see by some of my experiences, research can truly expand your knowledge outside the classroom in any field. I encourage you to use the resources on campus, including us! All of us have survived through the difficult times of being a research enthusiast and new student on campus. Please contact me for any questions (there is no such thing as dumb questions in research!). I look forward to talking and meeting with as many of you as possible!

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM)
  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Pincus-Magaziner Family Grant
  • University Scholars Program

John Cheo (COL 2015, Political Science)

My current research concerns itself with the evolving political landscape in Singapore. In particular, I wish to explore the dynamics and durability of a dominant-party state in the face of external trends toward democratization as well as internal sources of repoliticization. My fieldwork over the summer included one-to-one interviews with personalities involved, directly or otherwise, in the watershed General Elections in May 2011. In the longer term, I hope to build upon this project and consider the trajectories and prospects of democratic rule in the so-called “Confucian” and/or greater China region.

  • Riepe College House Research Fellow, 2012-2013
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholars Summer Research Grant
  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Ruth Marcus Kanter Grant

Brian Collopy (COL 2014, Economics, Mathematics; Candidate for a M.A. in Mathematics)

My research interests lie in economics and public policy. I have been a research assistant for Professor Mark Duggan, studying the effects of perverse incentives in the pharmaceutical industry. I have also been a research assistant for Professor Petra Todd, studying randomized experiments used to evaluate the effects of lower-poverty housing on single mothers and their children, and evaluating programs intended to help women in developing countries become employed. I have also studied from an economic perspective issues pertaining to energy, the environment, and public education. As the president of the Undergraduate Economics Society, and having researched in the Economics Department as well as for a Wharton professor, please reach out to me if I can help you get involved in research in economics or mathematics.

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM)
  • Simon Kuznets Fellowship Award in Economics
  • CURF Undergraduate Advisory Board Member
  • Peer Mentor and President, Undergraduate Economics Society

Vinicius Ferreira (COL 2015, Chemistry)

My current research involves the production of high quality supported lipid bilayers (SLB). In particular, my current method involves Langmuir-Blodgett deposition on a self-assembled octadecyltrichlorosilane monolayer on glass. I plan to attach my SLB to a microfluidic network with the ultimate goal of studying membrane-related enzyme kinetics. My previous research involved studying protein-protein interactions between a key enzyme in the hypoxia regulation pathway and a possible co-chaperone. I believe I can be of help to freshman that have no previous exposure to research and are not familiar the admission process for research jobs.

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM)
  • LRSM Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) student 2013
  • QuestBridge Scholar

Arielle Fogel (COL 2014, Biology – Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Concentration)

I am broadly interested in animal behavior and the evolution and maintenance of sociality in nonhuman primates. My current research focuses on socially mediated behavioral and physiological changes associated with stress in owl monkeys (Aotus nancymae) with Dr. Fernandez-Duque. I have also previously worked in Dr. Linksvayer’s lab in social evolutionary genetics and the Philadelphia Zoo. I would be most helpful for those interested in evolutionary biology, animal behavior, and/or primatology but please feel free to contact me outside of these interests as well.

  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Pincus-Magaziner Family Grant
  • Biology Department Undergraduate Advisory Board
  • Major Advising Program (MAP) Peer Advisor

Robert Franco (COL 2014, History)

My research focuses on the role of gender in Latin American politics and social movements during the nineteenth and twentieth century. By studying gender in Latin American politics, particularly in its manifestations during war, revolutions, and movements to reform marriage, labor, and suffrage, I am able to understand how Latin American women and men perceived themselves, their roles in the state, and unveil new dimensions of their decisions to participate in social movements. My current project is on the May Revolution of 1944 in Ecuador, and I am looking at men and women’s roles during the Revolution, the gendered dynamics of Ecuadorian populism, and the historical relationship between political parties and women. I’d love to help anyone interested in conducting research in the humanities (gender, politics, and/or Latin America) and whose research requires overseas travel and/or archival work.

  • Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship
  • Leo S. Rowe Summer Field Research Grant
  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Mary L. and Matthew S. Santirocco Grant
  • Andrew W. Mellon Penn Humanities Forum Fellowship
  • History Department Research Grant
  • Positive Psychology Undergraduate Research Program
  • Penn Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism Research Grant
  • Martin Wolfe Prize for an Outstanding Undergraduate Research Paper in World History
  • Greater Philadelphia Latin American Studies Consortium Research Grant

Jay Gill (COL 2014, Cognitive Science)

My research is concerned with investigating the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on cognitive functioning. Previously, I have highlighted the ability of anodal tDCS to enhance executive function in healthy subjects by demonstrating post stimulation improvement on working memory and information processing related tasks. My current research is concerned with applying similar stimulation parameters to patients suffering from multiple sclerosis in order to ameliorate disease related cognitive deficits. I would love to speak with anyone interested in cognitive science, psychology, or BBB or anyone interested in getting involved in research at Penn!

  • Gates Millennium Scholar
  • National Science Foundation and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Undergraduate Research Program
  • College Alumni Society Research Grant recipient
  • University Scholar

Bahar Javdan (COL 2014, Biology)

In Dr. Sunny Shin’s lab, my research has focused on elucidating the mechanism of cellular release of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1α and IL-1ß using Legionella pneumophila, a model pathogen which robustly induces IL-1 secretion and has already been used to reveal potential pathways involved. In the past I’ve investigated the roles of the proteases caspase-1 and caspase-11 in IL-1 processing and secretion. Currently, I am interested in exploring the role of calcium signaling in innate immunity, specifically, investigating the calcium dependence of IL-1ß expression and secretion in macrophages. I’d be able to offer advice to anyone interested in pursuing biology research at Penn, especially in the fields of microbiology and immunology.

  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholars Summer Research Grant
  • Penn Genome Frontiers Institute Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Research Program
  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Pincus-Magaziner Family Grant

Kate Kerpen (COL 2014, Biology)

In Dr. Paul Sniegowski’s evolutionary biology lab in the Department of Biology, we work with “mutator” bacteria which have strikingly elevated global mutation rates due to defects in their DNA proofreading and repair functions. Scientists have found bacteria with elevated mutation rates in natural, experimental, and even pathogenic bacterial populations. I am currently experimentally investigating the fate of a beneficial mutation in asexual mutator populations of Escherichia coli. I would be very happy to talk with anyone about research at Penn in general or specifically about research in the Biology Department.

  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Pincus-Magaziner Family Grant
  • Biology Student Advisory Board
  • Major Advising Program (MAP) Peer Advisor

Spencer Lee (SEAS 2014, Computer Engineering)

Though the projects I have worked on in humanoid robotics have been varied, they all focus on the same idea: “How human can we make these humanoids?” Since the summer of my Freshman year, I have worked in the GRASP Lab under Dr. Daniel Lee, both on research projects concerning locomotion of humanoid robots and as a member of the UPennalizers RoboCup team. Both of these activities have helped me better understand robotics, humanoid robotics, and the systems which allow flesh and blood humans to locomote on a daily basis. I’m always glad to talk to students interested in robotics or engineering research.

  • Rachleff Engineering Scholar
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM)

Brittany Mayweather (COL 2014, Biological Basis of Behavior)

My research focuses on the epigenetic mechanisms of long-term memory storage with applications to Alzheimer’s disease, Schizophrenia, and Autism. I have worked the last two years in the Abel lab examining the role of the transcriptional co-activator p300 in memory consolidation and synaptic plasticity. Using mouse models the research examines the role of histone acetylation in modulating memory. Please feel free to contact me with any questions about getting started with research or even specific questions about working/taking classes in the biological sciences.

  • Ware College House Research Fellow, 2012-2013
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar

Megan McCarthy-Alfano (COL 2014, Health and Societies)

I am very interested in the intersection of science and policy, particularly in making health care most effective for patients and practitioners. My research spans multiple health-related fields, including patient-centered outcomes research, medical sociology, psychology, and medical anthropology. Currently, I am examining parents’ treatment decisions for their children with autism spectrum disorders in affiliation with the Center for Autism Research and the Department of Anthropology in order to promote more effective treatment approaches for ASDs. In the past, I have conducted health care outcomes research for the Department of Surgery at HUP. I also have assisted in an fMRI study of the neural correlates of anxiety and depression in Dr. Ruscio’s Depression, Anxiety, and Emotion Lab. I’d be happy to talk to students interested in any field, particularly public health, psychology, sociology, or anthropology.

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM)
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Urja Mittal (COL/WH 2014, Political Science, Finance, and Economics)

I conduct research in political economy and business. In the political science department, I am studying the relationship between income inequality and political polarization in the US. I am also investigating the development of mobile banking as a tool for economic development in Colombia and Peru, after having visited the two countries on a research grant. I would be happy to speak about working as a research assistant, conducting research abroad, and getting involved in research in political science, economics, and/or business.

  • Gregory College House Research Fellow, 2012-2013
  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Board of Managers and Presidents Grant
  • Wharton Social Impact Research Experience program (WSIRE)
  • Foreign Policy Research Institute – Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program

Brian Mund (COL Fall 2013, Political Science)

My political science research interests focus on the intersection between international security and international relations theory. My senior thesis looked at Russian voting behavior at the UN Security Council, and focused on Russia’s notion of state sovereignty. I have also conducted extensive research on the Kurdish minority in Syria and the Russian minority in Estonia. My current research looks at the international community’s perception of separatist movements, and I conducted fieldwork in Baku, Azerbaijan in the summer of 2013 for this project. I am also very involved within our Political Science department, and encourage you to contact me if you have any questions regarding Penn’s Political Science major. As a last note, I did not begin any research until late in my sophomore year, and it’s never too late to get started!

  • Fox Undergraduate Research and Service Fellow
  • Gelfman Summer International Travel Fund Grant
  • Senior Chair of Political Science Undergraduate Advisory Board
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Leo S. Rowe Prize

Olivia Rutigliano (COL 2014, Cinema Studies and English) (MA Submatriculant in English)

My research largely involves the study of adaptations across various disciplines, particularly English, Cinema Studies, and Theater Arts. I am especially interested in Shakespeare performance history, since Shakespeare’s works have been interpreted across highly different cultures and eras for hundreds of years. As such, each era produces new information about accepted understandings about each play. Last year, I studied how costume design can reflect this, by fitting the certain characters into specific aesthetic traditions, and, in addition to writing a paper on the subject, designed, and sewed six Shakespearian costumes for six heroines from different performance periods. I have expanded one of my chapters on these performance traditions – the chapter on Silent Film Versions of The Taming of the Shrew – into my current senior Cinema Studies Honors thesis. Additionally, for the Penn Humanities forum, I am investigating and writing about the history of stolen Academy Awards. Please feel free to contact me with any research questions – especially any questions about the humanities!

  • Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Research Fellow with the Penn Humanities Forum, Chair 2013-2014
  • Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Research Fellow with the Penn Humanities Forum, Steering Committee 2012-2013
  • Cinema Studies Research Grant
  • Harnwell College House Research Fellow, 2012-2013
  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Pincus-Magaziner Family Grant

Zachary Slayback (COL 2016, Philosophy)

My research interests lie within a variety of areas of philosophical inquiry, including moral psychology, biomedical ethics, political philosophy, and normative ethics, as well as the intellectual history of the liberal tradition, with focus on the schism between high liberalism and classical liberalism and how they play off each other. Currently, I am researching thick emotions (e.g., contempt and love). Specifically, I am looking at the role contempt can play in our lives as members of a political community, as well as its traditional role in our lives as members of the moral community. I am also working on developing a comprehensive critical review of the literature on love in moral psychology. Research in the humanities, especially philosophy, can be difficult to get started and is largely independent. Please contact me if you are interested in doing humanities research.

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring program
  • “Why Kant We Be Friends? Rectifying Immanuel Kant’s Place in the Classical Liberal Tradition,” Association of Private Enterprise Education Conference

Nick Thomas (COL 2014, Biology)

My research aims to find the most effective method for enhancing the already existing anti-tumor capabilities of the immune system. I have aided in research on infection stimulation, and my most recent endeavor has been a murine study looking at the effects of exercise in combination with chemotherapy on tumor growth. I have been in the same lab since the summer after my freshman year, and would be able to give the best advice to students looking to get involved in biomedical research, specifically cancer research.

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM)
  • University Scholars Program
  • College of Arts and Sciences Peer Advisor

Josh Tycko (COL 2014, Biological Mathematics)

Currently, my primary interests are the biomedical applications of our ever-expanding understanding of genetic systems. At Penn’s Gene Therapy Program, I am using a mouse model to develop a novel prophylaxis for respiratory syncytial virus, with adeno-associated viral vectors. I am also a member of Penn’s International Genetically Engineered Machines (IGEM) team. We are developing methods to induce sequence-specific methylation to silence oncogenes. Message me if you’re curious about how to get started in undergraduate research at Penn!

  • Biophotonics and Optical Radiology Laboratory at Columbia University
  • Gene Therapy Program at Penn
  • Molecular Biology Summer Research Program for Undergraduates at Penn
  • International Genetically Engineered Machines Penn Team
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar Summer Research Grant

Winona Wu (COL 2014, Biology)

My current research at the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute focuses on the role and interactions of Trib2 both in Notch signaling and in the pathogenesis of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Previously, I have conducted research on the mechanisms of directed secretion at the natural killer cell immunological synapse, becoming familiar with techniques such as cell culture, intracellular staining, fixed-cell confocal microscopy, and TIRF microscopy. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have about basic research in the biological sciences or about research-oriented courses at Penn.

  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM)
  • Major Advising Program (MAP) Peer Advisor
  • CURF Undergraduate Advisory Board Co-Chair

Alice Xie (COL 2014, Political Science)

My research has addressed diverse issues of international and regional law, and their impact on political and economic systems. I’ve examined institutions including the International Criminal Court and Chicago Public Schools, and attempted to offer institutional policy reforms which can integrate the fields of legal, economic, and political studies. I’m most interested in exploring how these factors influence one another in contemporary China: I’ve traveled to western China in the summers of 2012 and 2013 to interview local government officials and academics on development policy. I’d love to talk to anyone getting started in an integrated approach to law, economics, or politics; and also those who would like to focus on China.

  • University Scholars Program
  • “Revising the Law-Growth Hypothesis: a case study of reform-era China,” Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review, June 2013.
  • “The Aggrandizement of Corporate Personhood: a living originalist interpretation of contemporary corporate rights jurisprudence,” Columbia Undergraduate Law Review, May 2013.
  • “A Tale of Two Regimes – integrating contemporary Chicago public school reform efforts through regime theory,” Sound Politicks, May 2013. (Winner of the Best Article Prize)
  • “Interest and Power in the International Criminal Court: strengthening international legal norms within a sovereign state system,” Sigma Iota Rho Journal of International Relations, March 2012. Also published in Columbia Undergraduate Law Review, April 2011.
  • Political Science Department research intern (Chinese Politics)
  • International Relations Program research intern (Soviet Politics)

Jenny Yan (COL 2015, Biochemistry and Biology)

My current research focuses on testing the efficacy and mechanism of DNA vaccines on a mouse melanoma model. Recently the tyrosinase gene has been characterized as an important oncogene involved in melanoma tumor growth. My lab has used its previous model for DNA vaccines to create a vaccine using tyrosinase as the gene of interest. When injected into mice that are later challenged with melanoma cells, we have seen that tumor size significantly decreased in mice with the vaccine. I am very interested in health-related and cancer research and would be more than willing to help talk to students interested in molecular biology, oncology, or related fields. I’ve had experience in both basic and translational research and could help students decide what type of research best suits their interests.

  • Vagelos Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences

Emily Zhang (EAS/ WH 2016, Management & Technology Program)

My research focuses on the study of artificial cartilage made of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-laden hyaluronic acid hydrogels. In Dr. Jason Burdick’s laboratory, I have completed the study on the effects of dynamic loading, and the influence of hydrogel crosslinking density and macromolecular diffusivity on MSC chondrogensis and hypertrophy; I am currently investigating the effect of binding the peptide, n-cadherin, onto the MSC hydrogel polymer’s backbone. I would be happy to answer any research questions and help those looking to get involved with engineering research.

  • National Science Foundation Research Award
  • Vagelos Undergraduate Research Grant
  • Ware College House Research Fellow, 2013-2014
  • Semifinalist: Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology

Kaiwen Zhu (COL 2014, Cognitive Science)

I currently assist in women’s health research, and my project focuses on blood-borne biomarkers for ectopic pregnancy. I have also conducted neuroscience research on the amygdala’s in vitro response to oxytocin, as well as how this changes in mice with schizophrenic symptoms. This fall I’ll be presenting my findings at the Society for Neuroscience annual conference. Prior to these studies, I contributed to three other biomedical projects on the gait of obese patients, a system for upper-arm rehabilitation in post-stroke patients, and the excitotoxicity of cerebellar Purkinje cells. Feel free to email me with any biomedical research questions! I’m more than willing to offer suggestions for finding a lab to work with, writing a grant, presenting at a symposium, making the most of a lab experience, and balancing research with academics and extracurricular activities.

  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Goldfeder Family Grant
  • Clark Scholar

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